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Zwelinzima Vavi locks horns with Irvin Jim

Battle lines have been drawn over a letter of intention to suspend the former Cosatu boss

The battle for the soul of trade union federation Saftu is on, with general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi in one corner and his Numsa counterpart Irvin Jim in the other.

Sparks are expected to fly at a Saftu national executive committee (NEC) meeting billed for next weekend, with a clear divide between the two.

The conflict escalated this week with a letter of intention to suspend Vavi, a decision apparently emanating from a Saftu national office bearers’ (NOBs) meeting on Monday.

After a defiant Vavi challenged the missive giving him an ultimatum to explain himself, an all-out war ensued, with several Saftu affiliate unions coming to his defence.

With the exception of a R1,800 bill for Gautrain trips, Bolt rides and airtime racked up by him that was advanced as one of the allegations he is facing, there was no detailed report of the case against him, he said.

This while Jim launched a vicious offensive against Vavi on the trade union federation’s WhatsApp group, which this publication has seen.

But he was met with an equally spirited defence from the union that has pledged allegiance to Vavi.

The unions backing Vavi have warned the Saftu NOBs who attempted to suspend him, saying there will be blood on the floor should they go ahead with th

According to these unions, the NOBs have no power to suspend another NOB, a decision they contend rests with the NEC.

Jim has accused Vavi of behaving like a prima donna who is immune to accountability.

Jim and Vavi were close allies during their days at Cosatu, from which they were expelled in 2015. That led to the formation of Saftu.

As Saftu prepares to go to its national congress in two months, it now appears the two will be attending as foes out to finish one another.

“We say without any fear of contradictions that your said letter to the general secretary lacks authority and jurisdiction, it constitutes an unlawful instruction, therefore it can only be disregarded and defied,” wrote Vusi Ntshangase, the general secretary of the Democratic Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (Detawu) to Saftu president Mac Chavalala.

“Our view is that your letter [of intention to suspend Vavi] is out of order, to say the least, because it exposes the federation to unnecessary costly litigations. As such, as a union, we encourage the general secretary, comrade Zwelinzima Vavi, to disobey your unlawful letter and continue with his duties as elected by the founding congress until appropriate structures or nature decide otherwise.”

This is what is the liberalism that has engulfed Saftu, Vavi can tell the whole NOBs to look for nearest cliff and jump because he is a popular than the rest of Saftu NOBs.

Irvin Jim

Jim was unimpressed, saying Vavi was not above the trade union federation.

“This is what is the liberalism that has engulfed Saftu, Vavi can tell the whole NOBs to look for nearest cliff and jump because he is a popular than the rest of Saftu NOBs,” he charged.

“An individual like ZV (Zwelinzima Vavi) [has] absolutely no respect of the collective leadership and can simply dismiss the leadership of the federation with absolute arrogance [and] absolute disrespect of the entire leadership that respected him [and] allowed him to explain his side of the story.

“Ours is an appreciation that we are in a democratic dispensation with a bourgeois constitution with a bill of rights. We must be clear to all of you in this group, keep your special eminent ZV and hands off our Saftu NOBs.”

Three other Saftu affiliate unions expressed the same sentiments as Detawu regarding Vavi, with all confirming their availability for the NEC showdown from March 24 to 26.

Ntshangase fired another salvo at Jim in the fiery WhatsApp exchange: “We are not under your hostage wena (Jim). We have suffered enough [from] your self-importance tendency. Your mini-god desired status is rejected. Stop this name-calling and engage on facts & substance. We are not under your hostage Irvin!!!”

Jim said he was ready for war, to defend Saftu against “super-leader” Vavi and affiliate unions that are backing him.

“Saftu nobs are presented as being at fault by Detawu, Fawu, Salipsu, and some other affiliates who don’t mince their words. They call on ZV to arrogantly defy the collective leadership of the federation and lead as a Lone Ranger,” said Jim.

“We (Numsa) won’t be blackmailed just like shuttle politics are deployed we have equal and the same right to ask if this is the federation we have been part of. There won’t be compromises and the battle lines are drawn, we reject ZV’s absolute arrogance to the collective leadership of the federation.

“If the intention is to arrogantly blackmail, gagged them (Saftu NOBs) into submission because ZV is a super leader that can’t account and work with the collect leadership that we have elected, tough luck [because] the battle lines [have been] drawn we won’t be part of such a process.”

–Sunday Times

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